birth story

Our boy turns 6 months old tomorrow. Not sure if there are any Cesarean birth mamas out there, but I'd like to encourage you to tell your birth stories no matter how much your plan was changed. Here is ours, from December 2009.

All along we had been planning a drug free labor with our midwives: hired a doula, read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth & Birthing From Within, journaled, made birth art [photo below]... everything was going well until he dropped really low on Halloween night while I was visiting my NH grandparents. At my next appointment, the midwives said he had descended while in breech position, but we had 2 months left for him to tumble over so they weren't worried.

After weeks of crazy positioning, chiropractic adjustments, moxabustion & frequent naps, we scheduled an external version with the OB who oversees the practice for 7.30 on a Wednesday morning. We brought music & for about 20 min I employed all the techniques our doula had taught us while looking out the window as the mist settled in the woods outside the hospital room. I'm not going to lie: it hurt a lot & was hard to distance myself from the physical reality that someone was manipulating me from the outside while our baby still wasn't moving much. It was also very difficult for Nic to watch, probably the most difficult part of the process for him. I was hopeful as we left, though maybe a desperate hope, because we knew no one in the area was willing to attempt a breech birth with a mother’s first pregnancy (never labored before). In that case, we would need to schedule a Cesarean birth toward the end of December.

The version was less successful than I thought. His little bum settled in my hips, they said he was now frank breech: which is like sitting lotus style, so the bum & legs come at the same time. The following Monday I had to schedule a Cesarean date; we picked December 28. He seemed strong & happy/active every time they checked so the OB was willing to schedule at what they presumed was 39 weeks. As soon as I got out of the office & into the car, my grief overcame me. As much as I was trying to be brave & accept whatever birth Elijah needed, it crushed my sense of legitimacy as a mother that a c-section would happen so early in this journey. I sobbed on & off for hours, knowing that I'd taken every careful step & still couldn't control his little body to make him go head-down in time. So I took a lot of time that week to mourn, sad for a more medical situation & the loss of the intimate birth we'd wanted so much. I may also have been mourning the reality that our next birth, should we be so blessed, will have to be a successful hospital VBAC before I'd be allowed to try for a home birth. But the next week was Christmas, & everything felt very weird. Almost Wes-Anderson-film-weird.

Mind you, I kept telling the OB & midwives that I thought week 40 was closer to mid-December than their estimation of early January. We had only "tried" once & had a positive test 2 weeks later. So it was a surprise (but shouldn't have been) on Wed the 16th when my water broke in a gush while singing "O Come, Emmanuel" at band practice at 8PM [photo above, literally minutes before]. Initially I panicked, waddling to the bathroom to check that his cord wasn't prolapsed. Upon returning, I realized we didn't even have the right number saved in our phones, so gracious Greta helped us call ahead as we went into the hospital in very active labor, having felt no early labor that day. With everything packed at home (not in the car), Greta met us at the hospital with the labor bag, music & car seat. When the nurses checked me in L&D, 25 min after my water broke, I was 5 cm & 85% effaced so they verified he was still breech & paged the on-call surgeon. We called our doula, & I was able to labor for another hour before they started prepping me for surgery. I'm delighted to tell you that as soon as our doula assured me that this was not an emergency, I was able to distance from the pain & feel joy with each contraction. It healed my heart to know he was healthy & picked his own birthday, that I didn't need to mourn or be in distress.

Thankfully, Nic was right by my face talking to me as Elijah was born. We could hear his muffled cries before they even pulled him out; he was strong & obviously full-term at 7 lbs & 20 inches. Nic held him right away, & brought him to nurse as soon as I was sewn/glued up. That weekend a very uncharacteristic snowstorm tucked the city in a cozy, homebody sort of holiday cheer.  Bringing our tiny face home Saturday felt more restful to both soul & body than I had been in many, many weeks. And I was able to start the process of healing.

"For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. From six calamities he will rescue you; in seven no harm befall you." Book of Job, Chapter 5, v.17-18
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